Deborah Alma is The Hurst writer-in-residence in 2013, during the renovation of the Manor House, former home of playwright John Osborne. She will speak to, or read the writing of, people connected to the past, present and future of the house and create ‘found’ poems from their words.
The Midlands…The large kitchen of a country house of the kind sometimes advertised as ‘a minor gentleman’s residence’.
The kitchen, a working place at the heart of the building. Stone flags gleaming, rooms for hanging game and preparing other fruits…Ancient hooks hang down from the ceiling and a huge AGA dominates…a comforting light from its engine-room sparkling surface. A large, empty dog basket, its scatter of hairy blankets spilling out from it stands besides the stove …A sitting room and kitchen…A place for talk and conviviality.
Words taken from stage directions for John Osborne’s play Déjàvu
We tried to get it fixed
when Helen was out of town – less hassle.
Bloody AGA, to put it mildly,
It was a pain in the bottom,
suddenly all black.
Hannan came, from Craven Arms.
He had an awful habit of coming
at six o’clock at night
just when Helen came back to life
and if he didn’t come at all, she’d go mad.
Her study stuffed with cookery books.
Slow-cooked beef casseroles,
steak and kidney pudding,
roast duckling with honey,
Old Mother Osborne’s Tomato Ketchup.
Sitting in her kitchen,
with her dogs by the AGA,
pale, weak and chesty.
Andy had to carry her to the car,
which took her to the hospital.
Helen’s last day at The Hurst.
Words taken from an interview with Sue Mercer, housekeeper for John and Helen Osborne and extracted from ‘John Osborne Entertains’ by Meg Pybus and Gordon Dickins.
Twink, he called her, Twink
Twink, he called her, Twink.
All the recipes she’d used
were dirty and thumbed-over,
so it was obvious what they’d eaten.
In one of the cookery books,
a list, a household list.
On one side, Firelighters and Do-Lights
and on the other;
You make my life bleaker.
Words from Meg Pybus and Sue Mercer